Tips for Working with Clients
Working with people can be hard sometimes, but it’s unavoidable as a designer. You’ll always be designing for someone, so having a good strategy for talking to clients is key. Here are a few ways to make the process go a little smoother:
1. Send clear emails
When communicating with a client, it’s important to ask a lot of question and make sure you know what the client is asking for. Be specific. Make sure to ask for any inspiration they may have, brand guidelines, specs, support files, etc. You want to collect all of this before starting so you don’t have to stop halfway through and wait for these things.
2. Set clear expectations
It’s very important to make sure you know what the client’s expectations are. That means you needs to ask for deadlines and know exactly what they want sent to them - a 10x10 brand guideline pdf? One color and full color logos? Pngs or jpgs? Due next Friday? Having all of this information up front first of all gives you a better starting point and a better idea of how long a project will take, and it also cuts down on the back and forth with the client.
You also need to set clear expectations for yourself. Don’t tell them it’ll be done in a week if you’re slammed. Give yourself a little buffer if possible. And if they have a set deadline that you really can’t meet, or the scope of the job is just a little too much for you, it’s ok to turn things down!
3. Keep all emails/forms of communication
This one is super important! Did the client say he could extend the deadline a week? Did he say to go ahead and buy the stock photography and he’ll reimburse you later? You need to keep all of these things on record because you just never know. Sometimes people go crazy and “forget” all the things they’ve said to you, so it’s important to have them on file. I just make a folder on my email to store everything I get from clients.
4. Sign a contract
I talked about contracts in an earlier blog you can read here, and I want to emphasis it again. It’s so important that your client signs a contract so you both have peace of mind. They will feel better knowing you’ll deliver what you’ve promised, and you’ll feel better knowing you’ll get paid. It’s really a win win, so any client that argues with you about signing one is probably not someone you want to work with.
5. Set deadlines
This one is hard for me honestly, but so so helpful. If your client needs something done in two weeks, make a plan to send them a first draft in one week so then you’ll have a whole week to make any changes. You don’t have to tell your clients all the dates you’ve set, but making them for yourself is important.
6. Set a Schedule
Setting a schedule is really important, whether you work for yourself or for someone else. I work at an agency and every morning I make a list of the things I need to get done that day in order of priority. If I want to send something to a client by Tuesday at noon, I know it’s probably a good idea to start working on it before Tuesday. Making yourself a schedule will make you much less stressed, and you’re chances of missing a deadline will go do drastically.
7. Pair down before sending options
A big mistake I made when I first started freelancing was sending the client every option I had made. If I had 12 ideas for their logo, I’d send them all 12. What I quickly learned was that that was a terrible idea and it made the whole process drag out for so much longer than it needed to. It makes the client all the sudden think they’re a designer, and they start giving you little tweaks to do on 10 of the different options. Then you end up designing 6 different logos and the client wants to combine #1 and #3 but feel like #5. It just gets too complicated.
The better option is to get all your ideas out, and then comb through and decide which 2-4 you think are best. You are the designer, remember? They came to you not just because you know how to use a computer, but because you have skill and a good eye!
8. Be a kind human
The best way to deal with a client is with kindness. You’ll have frustrating clients that don’t return emails, change their minds every day, or are just plain rude, but you can always respond with kindness. Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t give them a piece of your mind, even if they deserve it. Don’t disregard every bit of feedback you’re given. If you do your job well and are easy to work with, you’ll get repeat clients and recommendations. Now maybe you don’t want to work with some of these people ever again, but you never know, so be nice!